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Battered Women in the Arab World Printable Version PRINTABLE VERSION
by Dmitriy Kokarev, Lebanon May 9, 2005
Human Rights   Opinions
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Female abuse is a common phenomenon that takes shape in several forms in Arab societies. However, this phenomenon tends to be extreme in certain communities where women are mercilessly battered by males of their household. The magnitude of the problem of battered women is not only the result of the damage these women go through during and after being battered, but also the result of the secrecy that they are forced to keep out of fear that if they divulge their sufferings, they will bring dishonor to themselves and their families.

The reasons that stand behind female battering are many. Some men beat women because they feel physically stronger. Ironically, this physical superiority is only displayed over females, almost never over other males. Others beat women because they believe that they have a disciplinary role to play since women can easily bring shame to the family if accused of “wrong” behavior. Other men feel in control because their women are either illiterate or financially dependent. I personally believe that there is no document anywhere in the world that states that the male is in any way better than a female, and such behavior only reveals perverted traditions and male insecurity. A few examples taken from private testimonies will illustrate the degree of agony and humiliation Arab women who are battered go through.

Nawal is a Jordanian who got married to a successful engineer when she was only 15 years old. He would beat her if one of their children lost a pair of scissors, if she was late coming home, if she opened the front door without first asking for permission. He would throw anything at her within his reach: a shoe, a jug, a chair. Nawal bore savage beating for seven years until her face became disfigured. She then obtained a medical report and filed for divorce. The divorce was granted, but she was only given custody of her youngest daughter. Today, Nawal is a divorcee, who was not only abandoned by her husband who has denied her any form of compensation, but also from her own family who accuse her of having brought them shame. She works unrelentingly as a house maid to be able to support her daughter and put her through school. She would often say: “I will never let my daughter go through what I went through. I want to give her education, the only weapon she could use to fight for her rights.”

Fawzia is from Assaid, a region in Egypt. She fell in love and married a technician. He began beating her as soon as they were married, hoping to subjugate her. With time the battering became more aggressive. He sometimes used a leather strap, leaving deep marks on her body. He particularly enjoyed beating her in front of their three children. He rarely beat his children because he barely saw them. His son, however, was also violent and often ill-treated his younger brother. Fawzia had always lived an atmosphere of violence, which explains everybody’s unwillingness to help her. Her father used to beat her mother as well. For her mother, seeing her daughter battered was a normal thing. She would ask her to do her husband’s will and be wise enough to protect her household’s respect and dignity. Her in-laws, on the other hand, defended their son, accusing her of “misbehaving” and not being the “ideal wife”. Although Fawzia hates her husband now, she can’t leave him as she has no profession or degree to help her support herself.

Iman is Lebanese. She was forced by her brother to drop school and marry her cousin whom she didn’t love. Leaving her parent’s house, however, did not save her from the pitiless treatment she received from her brother. On the wedding night, Iman was suspected of being a defamed non-virgin. Blindly enraged, Iman’s husband and cousin called her brother immediately and reported the situation. The latter came hurriedly and beat her violently with a stick until her heart stopped beating. It was later revealed in the autopsy that Iman was actually a virgin. Her brother, however, was accused of committing a crime of honor and was later acquitted after serving his short sentence.

These are but a few of the hundreds of stories and cases battered women do not dare tell publicly. The problem is omnipresent and we have to do something about it. Violence against women is a crime against the essence of humanity and will cause severe harm to future generations by generating violent behavior in children.

Achieving the Millennium Development Goals is an urgent necessity if the world is to be a safe place to live and Goals 2 and 3, in particular, will help women considerably. We have to educate women to give them the tool of knowledge and the awareness to open their eyes to their rights. Education will not only allow women worldwide to seek help and practice their rights, but will also allow them to depend on themselves by not worrying about destitution in case their marriage fails. Educated women will be able to stand up for themselves and show the world around them that they are not mere objects on display but important individuals that have the same degree of capabilities as their male counterparts. They only need their basic human rights to show how much good they can contribute to the world.

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Writer Profile
Dmitriy Kokarev

My name is Dmitriy Kokarev-Rizk.
I was born in Russia and spent the first six years of my life in Moscow. Afterwards I had to travel to Lebanon, my father's homeland, where I am living at the moment.
I developed an interest in writing when I was still a child and since then have been writing and reading anything I could get my hands on.
I graduated high school last year and am going to attend NDU University in order to major in English Literature.
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